Carmel Mission. Photo Danielschreurs/Dreamstime.

History of the California Missions

In the mid-1700s, Spain pushed for colonization of Alta California, rushing to occupy North America before the British beat them to it. The Franciscan order built a string of missions; each was intended to act as a self-sufficient parish that grew its own food, maintained its own buildings, and took care of its own people. These missions influenced the history of early California not necessarily for the better.

Catedral Metropolitana in San Salvador. Photo © Milosk50/Dreamstime.

San Salvador, El Salvador’s Urban Heart

Chaotic, congested, and consistently noisy, San Salvador is El Salvador’s capital and resilient urban heart. Battle hardened by civil unrest and natural disasters, the city bears the scars of its past with a fierce determination to create a better future, and it seems that perhaps finally, the tide is turning. It’s an exciting time of transition, and as a visitor, there is much to see and do. In fact, San Salvador can be the perfect base for your travels, with all of the comforts and amenities you need and many of the country’s top sights within a short bus ride away

Ebenezer Baptist Church. Photo © Lpkb/Dreamstime.

A Guided Tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

Almost a million people make the pilgrimage to Atlanta each year to pay tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Since 1980, the National Park Service has maintained the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes the graves of King and his wife, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the King Birth Home, and Historic Fire Station No. 6.

Stela 5 at Takalik Abaj. Photo © Simon Burchell (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ruins of Takalik Abaj, Guatemala

The archeological site of Takalik Abaj, meaning “standing stones,” is particularly interesting because it reveals elements of Olmec influence in early Mayan culture. Learn about the ruins and how to get there in preparation for your visit, along with recommendations for where to stay to explore the surrounding landscape.

Explore verdant valleys in Colombia's coffee region.

Colombia’s Economy

Colombia has a thriving market economy based primarily on oil, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing. Growth over the past decade has been a robust, placing it solidly as a middle-income country. Here’s a brief look at the country’s economic history, with a more in-depth focus on developments and policies in the last two decades.

Arco de Santa Catalina. Photo © Al Argueta.

Religious Sights in Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua is fascinating and easily manageable for a day of sight-seeing, as most everything you might want to see and do lies within a radius of a few miles. These churches and convents provide a great look into Antigua’s history.

Higo Chumbo Cactus on Mona Island. Photo © U.S. Fish & Wildlife Southeast Region, licensed Creative Commons usage.

Mona Island’s Colorful Past

Oh, the tales it could tell if Mona Island could speak. Its past is a drama full of marauding pirates, thriving Taínos, and many a shipwreck. Today, in addition to enjoying the island’s great hiking, diving, and bird-watching, visitors can explore the faint remains of the Taíno civilization and mining operations. Petroglyphs, stone walls, cabins, and graves are enduring reminders of Mona’s colorful past.

Sunner Time by artist Nellie Mae Rowe. Photo © Nellie Mae Rowe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

African American Arts and Heritage in Atlanta

Atlanta has been called “the crown jewel in the story of black America” for good reason. The city’s distinction as a crossroads for equal opportunity dates back generations, due in no small part to the concentration of historically black colleges (the largest in the country) and long legacy of African American entrepreneurship and innovation. This unique heritage is also a major draw for tourism; no matter what the calendar says, it’s always Black History Month in Atlanta.

Iximché exhibits much more of a Mexican influence than other Maya sites in Guatemala. Photo © Michal Zak/123rf.

Iximché, Guatemala’s Most Accessible Highland Mayan Site

Iximché is the most easily accessible of Guatemala’s highland Mayan ceremonial sites. It makes an interesting stop for those with an interest in Mayan culture and history because of the differences it exhibits from the lowland Mayan sites of Petén, which date to much earlier times.

An artisan working on an oxcart wheel.

The Oxcarts of Sarchí

Sarchí is famous as the home of gaily decorated wooden carretas (oxcarts), the internationally recognized symbol of Costa Rica. The carretas, forced from the fields by the advent of tractors and trucks, are almost purely decorative now, but the craft and the art form live on here, where artisans still apply their masterly touch at two fábricas de carretas (workshops), which are open to view